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Investment Giant Offers New Funds that Exclude Gun Manufacturers, Retailers

Laurence D. Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock Inc., speaks during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25, 2018. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

An investment firm announced Thursday that it’s expanding tools for investors to avoid companies involved in the manufacturing or sale of firearms.

Two weeks after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 students and faculty were killed by a former student, BlackRock global investments said in a statement that the company felt “this event requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors.”

The company noted then that there are three publicly traded companies in the U.S. whose primary business is firearms manufacturing: American Outdoor Brands, Vista Outdoor and Sturm Ruger. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is the greatest institutional owner of Sturm Ruger at 16 percent, with 10.5 percent in American Outdoor Brands.

“BlackRock holds none of these firearms manufacturers in our active equity portfolios (where stocks are selected by our portfolio managers within guidelines agreed to by clients). In BlackRock’s index equity products (where stocks are determined by third-party index providers) – these three companies represent 0.01% of total assets,” the firm said, vowing to work to offer clients products “aligned with their values” including “helping them explore their options for altering or eliminating their firearms exposures.”

On Thursday, the company issued an update “to provide more choice for clients seeking to exclude firearms companies from their portfolios” and declaring that, as a fiduciary, they would engage with firearms manufacturers and retailers “in which our clients are invested regarding business policies and practices connected with the production and sale of firearms.”

BlackRock is launching an Environmental, Social and Governance ETF on April 12 that “will exclude all producers and large retailers of civilian firearms,” including Walmart, Kroger and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and has filed an initial registration statement for an iShares ESG US Aggregate Bond ETF that does the same.

The company also said it is “offering a new line of products that are exclusively firearm-free available to certain institutional investors, including qualified U.S. pension plans such as 401(k) plans,” and for existing broad market ESG equity and bond index ETFs is “changing their underlying index to indexes which include explicit screens for civilian firearms manufacturers and large retailers.”

“BlackRock manages money for a diverse set of investors, including pension plans, insurers and individual investors, who have a wide range of views on firearms,” the firm added. “It is ultimately our clients’ choice about the types of funds they invest in. It is our privilege to serve them, and we will continue to engage with all of our clients to understand their needs and preferences so that we can effectively meet their investment objectives.”